How long has it been since you’ve seen, let alone used, a payphone? In 2008, there were 21,824 payphones in New York City. Almost as unbelievable as the fact that 8,931 payphones remain on the streets of NYC is the fact that 6,400 of those no longer in use may prove useful once more as part of the LinkNYC program.

These Slow Wi-Fi Blues Are Melting Away

On November 17, city officials revealed a plan to replace up to 6,400 out-of-service pay phones with 9-foot-high Wi-Fi hubs capable of an impressive 1 Gbps connection speeds. Another impressive aspect to the project is that it won’t cost the city’s taxpayers any money. The contract’s winning bidder, CityBridge, will pay $200 million to install the hubs and will get to sell digital advertising space in return. Half of CityBridge’s revenue from the project will go back to the city, and that figure could reach as high as $500 million. CityBridge will even pay to maintain three classic phone booths to help preserve the city’s history and character.

Logging on in the City That Doesn’t Sleep

In addition to free, secure Wi-Fi, each location will feature charging stations, free calling within the U.S., and an Android-based tablet to access city services and provide emergency information. New Yorkers shouldn’t look this gift horse in the mouth, but they should be aware that the new hubs won’t give all the city’s residents free in-home Wi-Fi. Each hub will only have a range of 150 feet. That means they probably won’t eliminate the need to purchase in-home Internet access, but it will offer all-hours access in nearly all of the five boroughs’ public spaces. LinkNYC even claims Wi-Fi will be available in the city’s subway system.

It’s Up to You, New York, New York

If successful, LinkNYC will become the largest and fastest Wi-Fi network in the world, but the Big Apple won’t be the first city to attempt a free, citywide Wi-Fi network. Seattle tried and failed. Philadelphia failed as well. Still, LinkNYC officials are confident that their plan will succeed, and their no-taxpayer-money plan does eliminate the most common criticism of municipal networks. If things go according to schedule, CityBridge will install the first 500 hubs by the end of 2015, with a total of 6,400 hubs to be installed over the next six years.

I Want to Be a Part of It

There’s still reason to care about this news even if you don’t live in New York, or plan to visit the city. If the program is successful, it could lead to other cities implementing their own citywide Wi-Fi with New York as their model. With a private company willing to foot the bill for network installation, the LinkNYC method does seem to offer cities low potential for risk, and high potential for reward.

Other cities will probably be a bit cautious in following New York’s play. We’ll have to wait a bit before the LinkNYC network is in place, and wait even longer before we know whether it’s a success. If you can’t wait that long to do something about your slow Internet connection, enter your zip code below to see available plans in your area.

Source/Flikr Greg Riken


Or view all providers